What is a Dashiki? An Old Symbol for Renewed Wokeness

September 13, 2021 3 min read

What is a Dashiki? An Old Symbol for Renewed Wokeness

Almost half a century has passed since Dashiki became popular in the US. Until recently, this style has come back as a strong fashion statement of identity and expression among African Americans. So, what is a Dashiki and why has it become such an inspiring fashion trend?

A dashiki is a loose-fitting, pullover shirt made of bright, African-inspired cotton patterns or solid color materials, with patch pockets and embroidery at the collar and cuffs. Not only is Dashiki a distinctive form of dress marked by African Americans, but is also a garment that represents the mystical tradition of Africa.

Appreciate the culture and feel empowered!

1. The Origins of the Dashiki

The shirt in Dashiki's style is significantly older than its American history. These colorful, sleeveless tunics originate from West Africa. The term dashiki comes from the word "danshiki" or "dan ciki" in Yoruba and Hausa, meaning "shirt" in Western Africa, in particular, Nigeria. In the late '60s and early '70s, the dashiki evolved from the U.S. fashion scene as the civil rights era led to the Black Power Movement and its afro-centered esthetics.

lift-the-spirit

Emilio Labrador, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

By 1970, "dashiki" had become a symbol for black Americans, and the item was soon included in Webster’s Dictionary alongside the afro haircut. And as decades earlier, with an increased black political consciousness, the raise Dashiki as a fashion statement takes place.

2. Dashiki as African Fashion

Thanks to its variety of shapes, Dashiki is nowadays dressed on many occasions. Due to its comfort, versatility, and simplicity, the informal release is the most popular.

The formal version consists of a dashiki suit, a drawstring pant (shokoto), and a hat. Senegalese Kaftan and Agbada are other official variations.

The dashiki is trendy and flexible enough to carry jeans, shorts, skirts, and leggings in addition to its comfort. The dashiki is typically combined with American clothes and styles, for example, jeans. Interestingly, Dashiki is extensively used for both men and women as African attire.

A man wearing a Dashiki on his scooter

Photo by Yusuf Shamsudeen on Unsplash

The dashiki material is utilized for making prom dresses, midi and maxi dresses, slacks, shorts, and skirts, apart from a loose-fitting shirt. The Dashiki is also employed in the production of hoodies, sweaters, sweaters, caps, bags, bags, bindings, and buckets.

3. Dashiki as a Cultural Symbol for African Americans

This traditional clothing has strong symbolic value has for African Americans and Africans in the diaspora. The dashiki's brilliant color, looseness, and audacious pattern symbolize liberation and the relationship of Black Americans with their Ancient inheritance.

African Americans started to wear Dashiki in the 1970s as an attempt to break away from regular fashion and Western social norms. At that time, the dashiki represented not only a fashion statement but also a political act of the Black Resistance. This conventional costume was heavily associated with the Black Panther and Civil Rights Movement.

Jesse Jackson on radio broadcast

National Archives at College Park, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Just like the afro, the cornrow, or black power fist, Dashiki then quickly became part of African culture. In several recent decades, this fashion has been widely worn by sports, civil rights activists, politicians, artists, and entertainers in movies and TV series.

2019 Goldies NYC by Daniel Richter

Soulsville, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

More than just a symbol of struggle, Dashiki is also a sacred connection between their African roots and ancient cultural values. This is a non-verbal but powerfully apparent way to show pride in cultural heritage and values.

4. Dashiki – a Fashion Statement rather than a Trend

There is a plethora of famous black musicians like Beyonce, Rihanna, Wiz Khalifa, Jhene Aiko, and Chris Brown who chose Dashiki as signature costumes. The dashiki is also widely used for Black History Month, Kwanzaa, and other Afro-Centric celebrations.

The triumphant era from the African dashiki shirt keeps blooming in the period of heightened black fashion consciousness. Moreover, the versatility and uniqueness of this style is increasingly embraced and appreciated by other communities. More than a fashion statement, wearing Dashiki stands for the global recognition of the Afro-American community. Whatever African clothing fashion or style that you choose to wear, each and every piece of clothing is a symbol of heritage and a rich history that can impress anyone.

By adding new meaning to the world of fashion, this trend will always stand for a tenacious message of the Blacks worldwide.

Wanna express yourself proud and loud without uttering a word? We've got you covered. At Melaninful, we have a wide range of Dashiki-inspired Hoodies & T-shirts. Give this Dashiki collection a try!


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